“That’s the man. The man who comes to our house every night and tries to kill us.”
With these haunting words, Natasha Kermani’s Lucky throws audiences into a transcendently strange and enjoyable slasher. Led (and written) by Brea Grant, this is a thrilling time loop mystery wrapped in a layered feminist parable about agency, guilt, and the fear of losing control.
May (Grant) leads an apparently charmed life. She’s a successful writer, she has a husband that she loves, and a beautiful suburban home. But there are cracks in the idyllic life she has built. Her publisher doesn’t want her next book; her relationship is falling apart; and–as her husband reveals with those cryptic words–there’s a man who’s trying to kill her over and over again.
Those threads weave an intriguing yarn that examines trauma, anxiety, and misogyny through the lens of a seemingly sci-fi slasher set up. But it’s Kermani’s tight direction and nerve-shredding dedication to terrorizing May in every place she feels safe that elevates Lucky from an experimental thriller to a deeply unsettling and at times truly terrifying film.
Your enjoyment and emotional connection to the film will likely depend on your own experiences of trauma. In fact, in that way Lucky is a truly unique cinematic experience as your own subjectivity will wildly change the way you interact with it. To me, Lucky felt like a film that was clearly about having to constantly relive trauma. Her stalker can represent both memories of abusers past or even the anxiety of having to live with the horrors of your past. There’s another reading centering solely around guilt and personal recrimination. I’m sure many other viewers gleaned entirely different things from the film’s open-ended horror.
One of the most obvious and bleak readings is the domestic violence analogy. May is constantly traumatized by a man in her own home. He’s there every night and regularly tries to kill her. Yet when she reports him to the police they’re unable to do anything to help. It’s a dark reminder of the dangers that victims of domestic violence face and the lack of support that’s in place. Lucky not only looks at the complicity of the police but also social workers and first responders. They all blur into a surreal chorus of unhelpful voices more concerned with controlling and placating May than with actually offering her any concrete safety and help.
At no point does Lucky offer up the brutal but simple catharsis of films like The Invisible Man or Revenge. We don’t have to watch May’s brutalization to come to the conclusion that she’s strong or capable of fighting back. From the outset she is the aggressor. She’s ready to protect herself from this near unknowable threat that has suddenly appeared in her life. There are no answers as to why the killer is stalking her or how he comes back from the dead again and again. Grant and Kermani never feel the need to explain the world they’ve created. Instead, they leave you to slowly sink into the syrupy, dreamlike horror of May’s new status quo.
If you’re looking for an easy watch then Lucky might not be the right pick. Plus if you’re a fan of clean endings that tie up loose ends you’ll come away frustrated. That said if you like thoughtful and dynamic genre films that surprise you will be a fan of what Kermani and Grant have crafted. It’s complex without being boring or hard to understand, has both intricate character work and well-framed action. So if want an unexpected subversive horror-thriller that will challenge, scare, and ultimately entertain, make sure to move Lucky at the top of your Fantasia Fest watch list.